Balancing the Grind with Ishani Chattopadhyay, Founder & Managing Director of Arctic 90

Ishani Chattopadhyay is the Founder and Managing Director of Arctic 90, an entrepreneur-led advisory that helps businesses with strategic execution and operational challenges including growth, market expansion and people, team and culture.

Let’s start with your background! Can you share with us your career journey and what you’re currently up to?

Hello! My career journey is a story of adventure, taking risks, being at the cusp of change, failing, learning and trying new things. I grew up in India and Melbourne with a career spanning over 23+ years across India/South Asia, Australia, USA, UK with a focus on strategic advisory, entrepreneurship, market expansion, investment and innovation.

I started my career in Management consulting with Accenture in Australia and then the USA. Post my MBA, I took my professor’s start up (carbon advisory and trading business) from London to India and set up the operations in Mumbai and participated in the global IPO that took place soon after.

I then went on to run the Climate change tech business with regional leadership of India and Middle east for a Fortune 500 Power company and subsequently established my own business in India and Australia focused on impact, innovation, growth, mentoring and market expansion.

Currently I run Arctic 90 an entrepreneur led firm that prioritizes operational excellence and strategic execution to drive business results. Our primary focus is assisting you in accomplishing critical tasks for your business’s growth by leveraging our lived experience of entrepreneurship.

We offer services in all key areas of operation from strategic planning to new market entry and everything in between. We also take on interim operational roles/secondment within high growth companies who might not necessarily have all their key team roles staffed and/or need additional help from experienced entrepreneurs to get things done!

In terms of education, I am a Chemical Engineering and Science graduate (BSc/BE) from the University of Melbourne, Australia and I hold an MBA degree from the London Business School, UK with a major in Strategy and Entrepreneurship. I am a mother to a 11 year old boy and also run a social enterprise with my husband focused on providing support to next gen chefs and food entrepreneurs.

We’d love to know what a typical day is like for you. Could you describe a recent workday?

My work day is always planned as I am juggling many different things at the same time. Typically I set an intention for the day and look at what I must achieve that day and then schedule everything else around that. Apart from the prioritized tasks I ensure I fit in time for reflection, imagination, learning and a walk.

A recent workday this week started with school drop off followed by prioritization of tasks and then a few pre planned calls/check ins. I knew I had to design a program that day so I ensured I went for a walk and used the time to get my creative energies flowing following which I focused on the program design. I fitted in a school pick up and then emails, reading and a Board meeting after that.

Can you define work-life balance for yourself and share with us your approach in maintaining it?

For me, work life balance is non negotiable. I do not perform optimally if I am in front of my laptop all day. One of the key things I have trained myself to do is to not start my day with answering emails unless it needs an urgent response. This is to avoid the pitfall of getting emails answered all day and not getting any deep work done. 

I am also an introvert by nature which means I get my energy through quiet reflection and time with myself. So I ensure I have time to alternate busy days/meetings/conferences with enough time to reflect and recoup. This means I have also learnt to say No when I feel I cannot take something on as the trade off is too high.

Change is constant, and it’s essential for growth. Have you made any lifestyle changes in the past year to improve your work-life balance?

Yes. As we recover from COVID and get back into normalcy I am trying to ensure that I have a good mix of online and real person interactions. I believe that in person meetings and also no-agenda catch ups are really good for me to satisfy my natural curiosity.

I also have a clear system within myself to understand my needs and I keenly listen to those before planning or committing to things. Lastly I ensure I have “off time” from tech deliberately so as to quieten my mind and prepare for deep work/deep thinking. I am not on social media and that has served me really really well!

We’re always on the lookout for new resources! Can you recommend any books, podcasts, or newsletters that have helped you in your journey towards balance?

Yes I do. I listen to a lot of podcasts and some of my favorites are Hidden Brain, Freakonomics, TED radio hour and How I Built This. They all serve different purposes in my life and I usually match the podcast to what I am seeking that day.

If I am keen to understand how our brains work I listen to Hidden Brain and when I am curious about why things are a certain way I listen to Freakonomics and when I am deep into the world of entrepreneurship I listen to How I Built This. I also read certain books multiple times including the Dalai Lama’s The Power of Compassion as well as The Secret.

Before we wrap up, do you have any final words of wisdom or insights on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

My key learnings on work-life balance are around understanding context and perspective. I believe none of us would look back on our life and say “we should have worked more”. What we are more likely to say is “we should have spent more time with family or friends or our pets or doing things we love”.

We are in a culture where being busy is seen as a good thing and almost celebrated. I am aware of that and ensure I don’t make trade offs I am not willing to make in the pursuit of being busy. I design work around outcomes. I realize I am in a privileged position to do that and I don’t take that for granted!

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.